One of your first tasks as a new freelance writer is to start creating your freelance writing portfolio.
But not just any freelance writing portfolio — it must be in your niche and it must consist of your best samples.
(Therefore, if you want to write in the medical niche, the piece of fluff you wrote about how much you love your new puppy might not cut it — sorry!)
After all, future clients are going to be reluctant to hire you unless they can see evidence of your writing talent and skills.
I mean, you wouldn’t be selected for an interview to work for a company in-house unless they’d checked out your CV first — right?
It just makes sense.
Don’t quite know how to build your freelance writing portfolio as a beginner? Not to worry — read on to discover the insider secrets.
1. Start a Blog
One of the simplest ways that you can showcase your writing abilities as a newbie is through your own blog.
Think about it: how can you expect a client to hire you to run their blog if you can’t even run your own? Exactly.
By having your own blog, you can demonstrate the following:
- You have expert knowledge in your niche
- You’re able to create highly-engaging blog posts that gain traction
- You have mad WordPress or Content Management System (CMS) skills
Also, make sure that your blog looks professional and is updated regularly. Soz hun but the words “last updated 2011” are not going to wash with potential clients.
Pro tip: If your own blog turns out to be a great success, you could even monetise it one day to diversify your income streams.
2. Create a Professional Website
Having a blog is all well and good, but do you know what’s even better? Well, I’ll tell you – creating a professional freelance writer website that outlines your services.
This shows possible clients that you mean business (literally). It also serves as a one-stop-shop for when they want to find out more about you and your freelance writing history.
You could even have a blog as part of this professional website where you write about industry news once or twice a month.
Why? Well, it’s all about demonstrating authority in your niche. This then builds trust with your website and blog visitors, which is the foundation for a beautiful client-freelancer relationship.
Pro tip: Once you’ve published several writing samples in your niche, you can devise a “Portfolio” page where you list them so that a potential client can find them super easily.
3. Guest Post on Other Blogs
Freelance writing portfolio building 101: guest posting.
This is where you create a post for free to be published on another person’s blog. It’s usually in exchange for a link back to your blog or professional website.
As well as building your credibility as a blog writer, guest posting puts you into the category of “expert” in your chosen niche. Your published guest posts also serve as the perfect samples to show to prospective clients.
However, guest posting is only worth doing if:
- The blog you’re guest posting on is relevant to your niche
- It has a good amount of traffic and engagement (i.e. comments and social shares)
- It has high-quality content
Therefore, choose your opportunities wisely.
Pro tip: If you already have a blog up and running, the backlinks you gain from guest posting can improve your Domain Authority (DA) score and provide you with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) juice that will help you to rank better on Google. Win-win.
4. Contribute to Online Magazines
Like with guest posting, you can build your freelance writing portfolio by contributing to online magazines.
The process is very similar to guest posting and goes a little something like this:
- Find an online magazine to contribute to through searching on Google, LinkedIn or Twitter
- Find a relevant contact to email (usually there will be an address in the magazine’s social media bio or on their website’s “Contact” page)
- Send an email introducing yourself, stating why you’d like to contribute to the magazine and asking if they’d be interested in seeing your article ideas
Sure, this won’t be a paid opportunity. However, it’s likely you’ll be offered a link back to your blog, social media channels and/or professional writer website, which can open doors for you if the magazine has a large circulation.
Pro tip: I’m aware that writing for free across blogs and magazines doesn’t sound like fun when you’re trying to build a profitable freelance writing business. Having said that, it really helps you to hone your craft and get used to adapting your voice for a range of publications. All together now: practice makes perfect!
5. Use LinkedIn’s Publishing Platform
Creating social media profiles and marketing yourself as a freelance writer is very important in the beginning stages of your career.
I mean, if you’re not going to tell the World Wide Web that you’re a freelance writer for hire, then how the heck are they supposed to know? Right?
LinkedIn is one of the top ways to do this.
And they also have a useful little tool known as the Publishing Platform. This is where you can essentially create an article and share it with your LinkedIn audience.
You can also grab the published link to share it with prospective clients as and when you need to. Happy days!
Pro tip: If you’re struggling to summon up the confidence to hit the “Publish” button with every post you write, I totally understand. The fear of failing as a new freelancer can often be crippling. But if your dream is to write for a living, you need to believe that you can achieve it. Tell imposter syndrome to do one, and go for it. The phrase “fake it until you make it” is also extremely handy to have in the back of your mind!
6. Publish on Medium
Like LinkedIn, Medium is a free online publishing platform that was first launched in 2012.
That said, it’s only gained popularity in recent years.
All you need to do is sign up for an account and click “New Story” under your profile photo.
Once you’ve published an article in your niche, you can simply send the link in your warm or cold pitching emails to wow potential clients.
And this is precisely why Medium is a great tool for those freelance writing newbies who haven’t gained their first client yet.
Pro tip: If you sign up for the Medium Partner Program, you can earn money when Medium members read your articles. Sounds good, right? Find out more here.
7. Write Samples
Last but not least, what do you do if you haven’t signed up for LinkedIn, Medium or your own website but you want to kickstart your freelance writer career ASAP?
(Like, this very moment?)
Well, you simply sit down at your computer and start creating some writing samples in your niche.
Whether you use Word, Pages or good old Google Docs, there’s nothing stopping you from sending these writing samples as attachments in email conversations with possible clients.
The only thing is, I would suggest creating these with your ideal client in mind to demonstrate that you can tailor your writing according to a brand voice — even though you’re not actually working with that client yet.
For instance, say you wanted to blog for beauty businesses. You could write a sample post as if you were working with one of your personal favourites, such as Beauty Bay.
Pro tip: Having two or three strong writing samples when you’re a newbie is much better than having several ones that aren’t as strong. Remember that quality reigns supreme over quantity in this business and you won’t go far wrong. (Did that just rhyme?)
Crafting the Perfect Freelance Writing Portfolio
Every successful freelance writer started with zero samples, so don’t worry if this is your current situation.
That said, this needs to change if you’re serious about freelance writing for a full-time living.
The sooner you put yourself out there and start building your freelance writing portfolio, the sooner you can start earning the big bucks!
And keep in mind that you’re in full control of which samples you share with prospective clients. You can always remove old samples and replace them with new ones as and when they go live.
After all, it’s likely that your most recent samples will be your best ones, given that your writing will only improve with experience.
Have you started building your freelance writing portfolio? Do you have any other tips you share with us all in the comments?